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A Life of Complicated Solitude

Solitude can be a complicated thing in a person's life. An introvert may desire a peaceful and quiet environment where they can recharge their batteries and relax from time to time. On the other hand, solitude may be an unchosen consequence of something greater in someone's life, such as a traumatic event or a medical ailment which prevents someone from easily leaving their home. The prompt for Week 15 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge is, "Solitude."


Harry Abraham Rosenstrauch was born on 11 June 1903 at 460 Elizabeth Ave., Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey.¹ He was the only son to survive early childhood and, according to family lore, was spoiled and doted upon by both of his parents, as a result.²


Harry seemingly had a productive childhood, attending Easton Area High School in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, and later completing two years of college at an unknown college or university.³


As a young adult, he followed his sisters and father to the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, where he continuously lived in a multigenerational apartment with his father, one or more of his sisters, and their families.⁴ In New York City, he held odd jobs working as a salesman and a hotel desk clerk. Harry never married and there is additional family lore that he may have even been in a relationship with Phil Silvers, for a period of time.⁵


On 15 February 1942, at the age of 38, and just a couple months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Harry registered in the third draft for World War II.⁶ This registration was meant to include all men born between 17 February 1897 and 31 December 1921 (ages 20-45) who had not previously registered.


Harry was selected and enlisted at Fort Jay, on Governors Island, in New York City on 31 August 1942.⁸ On 28 December 1942, he received a Certificate of Completion from the Second Air Force Intelligence School after a four week course in Salt Lake City, Utah.⁹ On 9 June 1943, at the Army Air Base in Pueblo, Colorado, Harry was transferred from Active Federal Service to the Reserve Corps before being honorably discharged on 15 December 1944.¹⁰ While his full military record has not been obtained, there is no indication that he was ever deployed overseas.


After his time with the military, Harry continued to live with his father, two of his sisters, and a brother-in-law in Manhattan.¹¹ By 1972 he was the last of this household still living.¹² A seemingly quirky fellow, living relatives recall that he couldn't hold a job, especially in the winter, because he refused to wear a hat and therefore wouldn't leave the apartment.¹³ Under such circumstances, it is curious who would have ran Harry's errands including picking up things like groceries.


While Harry's sisters seemed to accept their brother as the entitled singular son of the family, and their roles to care and provide for him, it is unclear if some of Harry's idiosyncrasies were always a part of his personality, something that developed based on the environment in which he was nurtured, or a result of something he experienced, perhaps in the military.


On 14 March, 1977, a living great niece received a phone call from Harry's one surviving sister who, at the time, lived in Florida. She asked the niece to check in on Harry at his apartment at 5000 Broadway, New York, New York, because the sister had been unable to get in touch with him for quite some time. Upon arrival, the niece discovered Harry, alone, in a chair, dead of an apparent heart attack.¹⁴


Harry's life included several examples of solitude: the only son to survive early childhood in a household with several sisters; never married and didn't have any known children but may have possibly been involved in a romantic partnership with another man; spending time away from his family while serving in the military; refusing to leave his apartment during the winters; and dying alone in his home. Despite Harry's many instances of solitude throughout his life, he was never truly alone. Harry's legacy lives on in the memories of those who knew him and in the story of his life.

 

1. Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey, Records of Birth (Transcript) (1903), Abraham Rosenstrauch; City Clerk of the City of Elizabeth, Union County, State of New Jersey.

2. [Living Person], grandniece of Harry Rosenstrauch, [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, interview by Laura A. Weber, 9 April 2023; notes privately held by interviewer [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2023.

3. Easton Area High School (Easton, Pennsylvania), Rechavffe (n.p., 1922), pg. 32; database with image Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/328285546:1265 : accessed 11 April 2023), "U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012," image 36 of 92. Also, Harry A Rosenstrauch, World War II Enlistment Records, 31 August 1942, New York, New York, Service No. 32441618; index only Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/760218:8939 : accessed 11 April 2023), "U.S., World War II Enlistment Records, 1938-1946."

4. [Living Person], grandniece of Harry Rosenstrauch, [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, interview by Laura A. Weber, 9 April 2023; notes privately held by interviewer [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2023. Also, 1940 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan Borough, ED 21-1980, sheet 5B, household 121, Harry Rosestrauch in Abe Hart household; database with images Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-02672-00799 : accessed 11 April 2023), "1940 United States Federal Census," image 10 of 42; citing National Archives and Records Administration, T627.

5. [Living Person], grandniece of Harry Rosenstrauch, [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, interview by Laura A. Weber, 9 April 2023; notes privately held by interviewer [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2023.

6. "U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947," database with images Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44027_09_00174-01787 : accessed 11 April 2023), card for Harry Abraham Rosenstrauch, serial no. T1174, Local Draft Board 70, New York, New York; the source of these images in not cited.

7. “World War II Selective Service Draft Registrations,” Ericka G., Veteran Voices Military Research (https://veteran-voices.com/world-war-ii-selective-service-draft-registrations/ : accessed 11 April 2023).

8. Harry A Rosenstrauch, World War II Enlistment Records, 31 August 1942, New York, New York, Service No. 32441618; index only Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/760218:8939 : accessed 11 April 2023), "U.S., World War II Enlistment Records, 1938-1946."

9. Rosenstrauch, Harry, Certificate of Completion, Service No. 32441618; World War II: Enlisted Personnel.

10. Rosenstrauch, Harry, Certificate of Service, Service No. 32441618; World War II: Enlisted Personnel. Also, Rosenstrauch, Harry, Honorable Discharge, Service No. 32441618; World War II: Enlisted Personnel.

11. [Living Person], grandniece of Harry Rosenstrauch, [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, interview by Laura A. Weber, 9 April 2023; notes privately held by interviewer [address for private use] Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2023.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.


 

Disclaimer: Each blog post is created and presented for marketing and entertainment purposes only but are based on larger research which adheres to the standards of The Board of Certification of Genealogists® as set forth in Genealogical Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing, 2014).

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1 Comment


Nancy Casey
Nancy Casey
Apr 12, 2023

This is a lovely post. You really captured the essence of this man of solitude. Great job!

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